Where to Go in High Season in Europe

I love living in California, but one of disadvantages is the distance to Europe, my favorite travel destination. Because all four of us are on a semester schedule, we have vacation during the busiest travel times: around Christmas and in the summer. Traveling in the low season is not an option for us. When we do travel as far away as Europe, we want to make the most of our time and money by extending the stay as long as possible. So next summer when we go to Europe, we’ll be making the most of our time on the ground. Where exactly we’ll be is still up in the air–that’s where I’d love your input for where to go in high season in Europe.

Where to Go in High Season in Europe

First stop: Scotland in June

My mom loves traveling to Europe, especially the U.K., so we’ve decided to make a family trip to Scotland with her and her husband. It will be our first time in Scotland, and we decided to experience life in a Scottish village instead of Edinburgh. We’ll be splitting our time in Falkland (a small town near Edinburgh) and the Isle of Skye until around June 21. Because we’re staying for several days in each place, we opted for cute houses on Airbnb with enough room for all 6 of us.

After that, my husband, kids and I will have some time to explore more, but where to go?

London Tower photo credit: Adrian Navarro on Flickr. Where to Go in High Season in Europe

There are many options for short getaways in Europe, but planning travel in Europe for the middle of summer is not an easy task. I have to balance our desires with the practicality of heat, crowds, and high prices. One obvious plan is to continue on to London for a few days–it’s only just over four hours from Edinburgh to London by train, and we won’t have to worry about heat! Crowds and high prices? Maybe, but at least the city is big enough to get a sense of the city without throngs of tourists everywhere.

London is, in my opinion, a wonderful city to visit with kids. The city’s many free museums are worth a visit alone, but add to that London’s beautiful parks, variety of restaurants, and historical buildings, and visiting London with kids will be, I think, a worthwhile experience for all of us.

Where to Go in High Season in Europe

Switzerland? One country in Europe I’ve never been to but would love to visit is Switzerland. It wouldn’t be so hot, and I can imagine that there would be lots of fun things for my kids to do. But because we live near the mountains and spend a lot of time at Lake Tahoe, it doesn’t seem quite different enough. As always, the combination of food, culture, nature, and life in Italy is calling.

Photo credit: Andrea Anastasakis

Italy? Perhaps a less practical option is to head to Southern Europe–it may not be the best choice in summer but is always #1 on our wish list. If we go to Italy, we’ll need to find a way to make it more manageable because in high season is hot, crowded, and pricey. For example, a city like Bologna or the countryside of Umbia or Le Marche could be a refreshing choice–it wouldn’t be so expensive, and there would be fewer tourists than the hot spots of Florence and Venice.

Photo credit: Andrea Anastasakis

Portugal? Portugal is also high on the list. My husband being Brazilian means that there’s a strong connection to Portuguese culture; like many Brazilians, he has Portuguese ancestry and older relatives who still celebrate their Portuguese roots. And the fact that we all speak Portuguese would help us connect with locals. My mother-in-law has always dreamed of going to Portugal, so she and my sister-in-law might join us. I imagine that it will be hot but that visiting Portugal’s gorgeous coast would offer a refreshing way to beat the heat.

Where would you spend 10 days with two kids in Europe in the high season? What tips do you have for finding the right place to stay in high season?

P.S. My travel wish list from last year

Photo credits: 1) Andrea Anastasakis, 2) CC license on Wikimedia, 3) Adrian Navarro on Flickr, 4) Courtesy Voyage Prive, 5 & 6) Andrea Anastasakis

This post is in partnership with Voyage Privé, a members only luxury travel club that offers European getaways for discounts of up to 70%. I signed up by clicking just one button (it’s free) and was then able to search for my preferred destination. I found a long list of discounted prices on luxury hotels in much of Europe and beyond.


  • Natalie says:

    Hello Jenna…I’m new here. From your list and having been to London, Italy, Switzerland and Portugal over the years, I’d spend the ten days in Portugal, or split some days in London and some days in a town/ city in Portugal. I’ve been to Lisbon and the Algarve before with my family, and would recommend Portugal to anyone. We stayed in a hotel in Lisbon and rented an apartment via Homeaway in Albufera. Portugal is a lot more affordable than Switzerland, It is also less touristy than Italy in high season. Your boys would love exploring the castles or the beach, and with your family’s Portuguese knowledge you can focus on enjoying your vacation. I’ll write about my trip to Portugal on my blog when I get to it 🙂 Happy Thanksgiving!


    • Jenna says:

      Hi Natalie,

      Thank you so much for the advice! I like your thinking and think that your suggestion makes a lot of sense. I’ll look for your post about your Portugal trip. Thanks again!

      • Oh yes, I’d second Portugal! It’s my absolute favorite warm weather country in Europe (since, you know, nothing beats Scotland!).

        • Jenna says:

          So we’re leaning toward Portugal now! And does that mean you love Scotland? I am so excited to go there. So different from everywhere I’ve been the last decade or more.

  • Have you considered somewhere on the coast in the Balkans, like Croatia, Slovenia and/or Montenegro? So lovely, especially that time of year!

    • Jenna says:

      I would love to go back to Croatia. I also have Slovenia and Montenegro on my list, but because Rodrigo (my husband) has been to Europe only once before, he wants to go to a country that’s higher on his wish list (Italy, Spain and Portugal are his top choices).

  • Victoria says:

    Hi Jenna,

    I add my vote for Portugal which we visited in August and would highly recommend Lisbon, Sintra, Obidos as well as Tomar and Batalha if you like history. We combined South of Portugal with Andalusia which was stunning and affordable. I would also recommend Normandy and Brittany which are less hot than the rest of France in the summer and ferry over to Guernsey.

    • Jenna says:

      I’ve been to Andalusia, so I can imagine that visiting that area plus Portugal would make a beautiful trip. I hadn’t thought of visiting those areas of France, but it makes sense. Plus, it would be so easy for us to get there from London. Thanks for the suggestions–I still have some thinking to do! 🙂

  • First of all, I just found out that you’re an ESL teacher. I have my master’s in TESOL, (my BA was English with a linguistics emphasis) I’m currently a kindergarten teacher.
    I love your wish list for next summer! My ancestry is Scottish, so Scotland was one of the first places I traveled out of college. The Isle of Skye is where my relatives are from…(the whole island is filled with Macleods (my maiden name). You’ve probably already been to the Czech Republic, but if you haven’t, I would definitely put that on my list. So affordable and so much to see. We were there in the spring, and I wish I had spent the entire 2 weeks there! Switzerland is beautiful, but I’m not sure young kids would have much to see. Sounds like you’ll have a fantastic trip no matter what you choose!

    • Jenna says:

      So funny that we have so much in common but are just finding this out now. 🙂 My MA is in linguistics, and I’ve been deep in the world of TESOL for more than 15 years! And how cool that your maiden name is Macleod. I have certainly heard about them! Thanks for all the tips. I love the Czech Republic since I lived and worked there after college. It’s a beautiful country!

  • christina says:

    I’d definitely do Scotland (sort of biased as I was born there) and yes, England, maybe throw in Wales. Italy can be done if you stay out of the touristy parts of the big cities, it’s much more reasonable, and kids aren’t too crazy about cities anyway. Looking into Voyage Privé as it sounds right up my alley!

    • Jenna says:

      I was even thinking about Bologna as a less-crowded place in Italy. I’ve heard Wales is gorgeous!

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